Kayak crew breaks West Virginia habits – The Parthenon
The day couldn’t be better as you cruise down the Little Coal River in Danville, West Virginia. The sun is shining on you at a perfect temperature of 87 degrees, closing your eyes to feel the heat even though you could gaze at the blue sky all day. This is the first time in a year that you have taken out your kayak, the one that collects dust in the shed. West Virginia residents and tourists from miles away are in the river with their Jon boats and kayaks to experience one of the state’s outdoor treasures. It’s as quiet as it gets, except for the occasional bird chirp, as you breathe in the fresh air and grab a drink from your hydro-flask when you suddenly find yourself underground. A 200-pound tire just hit the stern of your kayak. The people around you are panting and trying to help, when suddenly they find they are trapped with a hundred more tires in front of them.
If you are floating in the rivers of West Virginia, you can just pass those tires on and not think about it later, but if you are a member of the “Trash your Kayak Cleaning Crew” Facebook group, you would collect these tires and shoot them on land. .
With the help of volunteers and community programs, the clean-up team has removed more than 3,000 tires and 3.5 tons of trash from West Virginia Rivers since the group was formed in March 2016. The team’s first clean-up has collected 800 tires with the help of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Rehabilitation Action Plan (REAP).
“It’s extremely frustrating because tourism is one of our biggest draws to the state,” said Michelle Martin, co-founder of the group. “West Virginia receives a lot of tourism dollars; I hope they start spending more time cleaning up our environment and our rivers. Martin said most of the time the group has to leave hundreds of tires due to lack of space.
Martin was another frequent kayaker who didn’t know how many tires there were in the rivers. When she and her sister, Melissa Haddix, noticed the tires in the Littler Coal River, they both decided to form the group.
Martin said he was told by numerous sources that the tire problem started in the 1980s in the rivers of West Virginia to “be someone else’s problem and was a convenient way for businesses and individuals to get rid of their tires “. Throwing tires in the river was and still is a popular choice due to the cost of tire disposal in West Virginia – around $ 3-5 per tire or $ 20 for all four.
The group collected 167 tires and 5.92 tons of solid waste from a 1.5-mile stretch of the Little Coal River during their most recent clean-up event on May 22. The crew gathered the tires and trash in 4 hours with 55-60 volunteers, but only 18-20 members were in the water with 8 boats.
Group members frequently post articles about the number of tires they have collected at events or by themselves, often in comparison with other members or to entice people to participate, but each tire is different in size. depending on his style or age. Martin said some tires she found are from the 1950s and can weigh a few hundred pounds. She said a large AEP crane truck is struggling to remove some of the tires the crew find.
The team are still working with DEP and REAP, but have also received assistance from the AEP, the Little Coal River branch, and the communities of Danville, Madison and Julian in West Virginia.
Members also come from different towns in West Virginia and range from toddlers picking up trash on the ground to women in their 70s.
Most of the members are there to clean the river and volunteer, but some members are also there for whatever they can find. Sheldon Jacobs, 65, is a member who regularly documents these adventures with the group and when kayaking alone. Jacobs said he joined the group 3 years ago when he wanted to kayak with other people, or what he said were other “scarves”.
“I have always been a scarf. If I see something in the river or on the side of the road and it’s okay, I’ll use it, ”Jacobs said. “They scarify too, and they clean up the river. It is not work; it’s fun. ”Jacobs said that if he can’t use something, he’ll keep it for one of his children, whether it’s his own child, one of his three grandchildren or both of his. great-grandchildren.
The Urban Dictionary describes “the scarf” as the action “to take (something) in a quick and enthusiastic manner,” but Jacobs describes the word as “you see something on the side of the road, let’s say it’s is a golf club – and it looks like it is in good shape. You go get it. It’s an old term; you pick it up where it’s available without stealing it. You just scarf it.
This is exactly what Jacobs does: he wears scarves. His finds include a tank of propane in the river – used only once or twice – which he brought home and a brand new board in the water that he was able to replace with his 28-year-old boards on his patio . But sometimes Jacobs finds things he can return, like 14 basketballs he found in 2020 or seven neon green soft balls and three baseballs he found in May. He now brings the basketballs with him to give to children in the parks and has made the balls soft at the local court.
“What we [Trash your Kayak Cleaning Crew] do now is not for me. It’s for the kids, ”said Jacob. “We can leave this world completely screwed up or if everyone did one thing: clean up your screwed up mess.”
Crew members also bring items home if they are not considered trash – Martin said she collected over 50 aluminum pop caps from the 50s and 60s and pulled out a hot tub and a vintage bowling pin.
The crew will be dumping their kayaks on June 5 on the Big Coal River and Martin is currently hosting a September 11 event on the Elk River for the trail’s foundation. She said people need to start cleaning rivers in West Virginia, even if it’s not during a cleanup event.
“We have thousands of people every weekend kayaking our rivers in West Virginia because most of our rivers are only accessible by kayak or canoe. Just take one thing, it might just be a Kroger bag. Imagine the impact this can have, ”said Martin.
Xena Bunton can be contacted at [email protected].